Ballet on Pointe

Very rarely do you hear of someone who grows up to pursue the wild dream they had as a young child. Children have such a unique take on society and reality; they marvel when someone tells them to reach for the stars and feel they can do anything imaginable.

Today’s society tells most young adults that the dreams they had as a child cannot be reached or they are simply incapable of achieving such greatness. Unfortunately this lie is the reason many give up those dreams. Junior Emily Olson beats that stereotype.

Emily Olson started ballet lessons in kindergarten and has been dancing for 11 years to this day.

“My sister bought one of those cheap electric pianos and she wanted someone to dance to it so I started ballet lessons to dance to her music. My mom thought I would do it for a year but then I began to really like it and I made some friends along the way,” Emily Olson said

Ballet is an art that requires much time and energy. Similar to the amount of time a typical high school athlete would spend practicing, Emily Olson devotes approximately six hours a day to her ballet.

“Once I get home from school I have to start [stretching] right away. I go to ballet at 3:30 or four, come home at nine and then I have to start my homework. I do not usually go to bed until really late at night like 2 o’ clock in the morning,” Emily Olson said.

Not only is ballet a very time-consuming art to be constantly involved in but also very costly.

“As far as pointe shoes go, I usually cycle through 3-5 different shoes at a time to prolong the life. If you want a good pair they can be up to $115. For me I can make them last about a month but my mom tries to make me go as far as I can. It is really hard to not break them in. Being a dancer costs a lot of money with the classes, pointe shoes, leotards and tights; it is a really expensive art but [my parents] really support me and I really love that,” Emily Olson said.

Despite the time required to be such a proficient ballet dancer, this does not stop Emily Olson’s drive to achieve and be the best that she possibly can.

“I just love its perfection because it is so unlike any other dance; it has to be perfect. I feel like humans are not perfect and it is a way to make me try to feel perfect even though I am really far from that when I am dancing,” Emily Olson said.

On top of spending many hours practicing, Emily Olson also performs throughout the year at various events and church functions. Her team of 10 girls has also performed at the Tacoma Glass Museum several times

“We danced at a brain trauma event in October, that was really cool and a lot of people were moved by it. It was cool to help different patients in nursing homes. It was a fundraiser for brain trauma research and they had us dance there,” Emily Olson said.

Not only does Emily Olson spend time dancing and practicing at the studio she attends in Edgewood but she also choreographed a dance in the Christmas program her team put on last year. Her mother Cheryl Olson attended the performance and reflects on her experience.

“It ended up being Christmas around the world and she chose a really fun Irish jig. It starts off just her and her sister dancing and as the dance goes on, more people come into it. [The dance] is a tribute to friendship and is very representative of her experience with ballet,” Cheryl Olson said. “Emily and Bethany have been some of the students that have been there the longest and then there have been other girls that have come in; they have all just become such good friends. I love that number because it has such a story to it.”

Emily and her sister Bethany Olson have a very close relationship not only as sisters but also as dancers.

“I love being able to share something so special with her. I feel like a lot of my friends do not have a lot in common with their sisters or enjoy hanging out with them, where with Emily I really enjoy spending time together. We are able to share a love of something with each other. Dance has brought us really close together because it gives us something to talk about,” Bethany Olson said. “It is a lot of fun because we get to share something that we both like to do. It is really cool to have her to look up to and inspire me. She always pushes me and tries to help me do better.”

For most, being with one’s sibling every day of the week and going to the same places might be stressful and irritating. For Emily Olson and her sister, it is just the opposite.

“Sometimes it is frustrating because she will say I am doing this wrong or I am not doing that right but all-in-all it is super fun to go home and be able to talk about dance with her. I cannot really talk about dance to my mom or dad because they do not understand it the way that I do,” Emily Olson said. ”It is cool that [my sister and I] can talk about class, what to work on and what we did badly. It is good to have feedback from a sister’s point-of-view because your friends will not be as blunt to tell you that you did horrible.”

The studio that Emily and Bethany Olson dance at is Christian-based which their mother Cheryl Olson feels has greatly contributed to their devotion and love of ballet.

“They build relationships with the gals they have danced with in more ways than one; as dancers and as people who are trying to use their dance in a very faith-filled way. It has added a whole new dimension for them that has brought a lot of meaning and purpose in their dance. They go out and they perform for all kind of different events,” Cheryl Olson said. “They go to nursing homes to try and use their gift of dancing to minister and uplift people. Their ballet teacher has been a mentor in their lives as well. It is great for them to feel like they have someone else to go to in that kind of mentoring position. Their relationships have been strongly built and that has been fun to see.”

Being a Christian-based studio, this has contributed to Emily Olson’s life in many areas and aspects.

“I really love my teachers; they are awesome. They have really helped me with my walk and relationship with Jesus. I can tell them anything and they will not judge me. We get to pray before we start and have a whole different relationship rather than just friendship; you get to have a relationship with Jesus as well,” Emily Olson said.

Being a ballet dancer may take a large toll of time out of Emily Olson’s day but her mother feels that dance has had a positive effect on other areas of her life to always push her to work her hardest.

“Emily is such a hard worker. She works so hard at so many different things; at school, in band and ballet. And I honestly think that some of that discipline, to work and persevere until you can do something, has come through ballet,” Cheryl Olson said. “It takes you a while to kind of perfect things, get used to dancing on pointe and all those things; they do not just come naturally. You really have to work at them and I honestly think her really good work ethic has some of its basis in ballet.”

Though the two sisters both attend the same dance studio, they both have their own unique style and method of dancing which is very evident to their mother, Cheryl Olson.

“Emily is more of a technical dancer, her technique is just flawless. She is a really beautiful dancer because her lines are so perfect. Bethany enjoys ballet for performing, even if it is not something absolutely perfect and she is okay with that. They are just completely different girls but I do think it has given them a really unique bond as sisters to share that love of ballet together,” Cheryl Olson said.

Emily Olson continues to live her childhood dream as a ballet dancer daily though she does not see much of it in her future, career-wise.

“It has always been a dream of mine to become a professional ballet dancer just like any other ballet student but since the average dancer retires from 35-40 years old, I wouldn’t be able to start a family until after then,” Emily Olson said. “It is also a very competitive art that is hard to succeed in. I do not think it is very good career option because I do want to have a family one day and I just feel like that is a little too late.”

For now, Emily Olson is focusing on dance and worrying about her future in it later. She is currently working on famous ballet variations which are often performed in the Youth America Grand Prix.

“We are learning different variations of the classics. Some girls are doing The White Swan from Swan Lake, The Aurora Variation from The Sleeping Beauty ballet, Kitri from Don Quixote and Esmeralda from La Esmeralda. It is really cool and quite a challenge to learn these famous variations. Our teacher chooses for us and we kind of have to audition for it so she chooses which dance she thinks will be best for us,” Emily Olson said.

Though being a ballet dancer is very competitive, Emily continues to persevere and push past her day-to-day challenges.

“Accepting that you are not perfect is so hard as you see the best dancers in the world, watching them on YouTube, you kind of get discouraged in thinking that you are never going to be that good. You have to not trust those lies and just work for it,” Emily Olson said.